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    Pressed Into Silence

    by Phil

    The day before the opening of Sochi's Olympic games 217 prominent writers from around the world signed an open letter to condemn Russia's anti-gay laws. "As writers and artists," the letter states, "we cannot stand quietly by as we watch our fellow writers and journalists pressed into silence or risking prosecution and often drastic punishment for the mere act of communicating their thoughts."

    The full letter letter can be read courtesy of The Guardian.

    So now Putin falls to his knees, apologizes, and repeals the laws, right?

    Of course not. But that's not the letter's intention. Among prominent Canadian authors who signed the letter (including Lawrence Hill, Jane Urquhart, Margaret Atwood, and Michael Ondaatje), Yann Martel appeared on CBC news from his basement in Saskatoon to explain why. Martel's hope is to "remind Russians that they can do better" and also to remind Canadians that "nations thrive the freer they are. Every nation needs to be reminded of that. Not just in Russia, but also here in Canada."

    The campaign, unfortunately, is not unique. Since 1921 PEN International has been promoting and fighting for the global freedom of expression. Since the letter to Russia was posted on February 6, PEN has posted 22 other headlines in the span of two weeks. It may seem far away from us here, but as the open letter to Russia eloquently states, these issues contribute "to the political and intellectual shape of the world far beyond their country's borders."

    Calgarians looking to celebrate freedom of expression, or just looking for an inspiring night out, have a lot to choose from during the Freedom To Read Week (February 23 – March 1). On Thursday, February 27th, at 7:00pm, the library will be at Owl’s Nest Books to present the winners of the Calgary Public Library’s Freedom to Read Contest.

    The following night Wordfest and the Writer's Guild of Alberta present GUILTY (READING) PLEASURES. Local artists Rosemary Griebel, Christian Bök and Jeff de Boer will discuss what they read purely for pleasure and the topics that obsess them the most. That's Friday, February 28, at Shelf Life Books. Reception and presentations from 7pm onwards.

    And of course — the #1 way to celebrate... READ!